Work hard, play hard
KU hoops Academic All-Americans:
1971: Bud Stallworth
1974: Tom Kivisto
1977: Cris Barnthouse, Ken Koenigs
1978: Ken Koenigs
1979: Darnell Valentine
1980: Darnell Valentine
1981: Darnell Valentine
1982: David Magley
1996: Jacque Vaughn
1997: Jacque Vaughn, Jerod Haase
1999: Ryan Robertson
Cole Aldrich says he’s focused on two things — and two things only — this week.
“Finals and Michigan,” Kansas University’s 6-foot-11 center said emphatically, not ranking one over the other in terms of importance.
The Bloomington, Minn., junior — who has three final exams today and Friday and an 11 a.m. home basketball game against the Wolverines on Saturday — on Wednesday made public for the first time a goal he’s had for some time now.
“To be an Academic All-American,” Aldrich stated.
“It’s going to come down to the wire. I’ve put myself in a good position to do that.”
The Communications major, who reported his cumulative grade-point average as 3.2, needs to hike it to 3.3 after this semester to be eligible for Academic All-America voting.
If he reaches 3.3, Aldrich will have his name submitted to the College Sports Information Directors of America. A panel of voters studies players’ performance on the court and the classroom, then subjectively select first-team, second-team and third-team Academic All-America squads.
“I think it was Jacque (Vaughn) maybe,” Aldrich said, asked to identify KU’s last Academic All-American in basketball.
“Or Ryan Robertson. Maybe one of those two.”
It’s been 10 years — 1999 — since KU combo guard Robertson earned first-team Academic All-America honors. Vaughn and Jerod Haase both were first-teamers in 1997.
Aldrich shared the reason he’s so focused on the academic honor.
“Just for the fact in my immediate family we’ve never had anybody graduate from college or even attend a university,” Aldrich said.
“So one huge goal of mine is to graduate, also to do really well in the classroom, to show people the stereotype that basketball players or athletes are just in it for the sport is not true. There are a lot of guys in it for academics, too.”
Aldrich, who is expected to declare for the 2010 NBA Draft, does not think he’ll be able to graduate after three years in school.
He’s enrolled in 16 hours of course work this semester after taking nine hours last summer and 15 in each of his previous semesters.
“Just for the fact I’d have to take quite a bit of hours with the (NCAA) Tournament and all that. It doesn’t make sense to really put that much time into both things,” Aldrich said. “I might be able to do it. I couldn’t give you a 100 percent answer on that.”
If any current KU player could graduate in three years, it’s Aldrich or Aldrich’s roommate Tyrel Reed. The Burlington junior guard hasn’t been an Academic All-American yet only because he hasn’t played a big enough role on the court.
“I think he’s a fabulous student. He’s a hard worker and is willing to take on anything he needs to,” Scott Ward, KU’s associate AD for academic and career counseling, said when asked specifically about Aldrich.
“A good word is he is a ‘conscientious’ student. When we are traveling, he is one of those students who lets his professors know everything. He talks to them and keeps them informed. Cole often spends time in my hotel room studying.”
Part of the reason is the big guy’s desire to be a first-team Academic All-American.
“He’s earned it,” Ward said. “He’s a kid who has worked very hard and values his relationship with the university. He respects what is going on with him as a student as much as a basketball player. He doesn’t want to slight either.”
Aldrich actually is seeking to become the first player in KU history to be both a first-team AP All-American and Academic All-American in the same season.
To that end, he’s anxious for this week to come to an end.
“It’s about as hard as everybody else’s is,” Aldrich said. “It’s not fun. It’s one of those things you’ve got to grind through. You’ve got practice. You’ve got to study hard and end the semester on a good note.”
Self launches Web site
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self announced Wednesday the launch of his Web site, www.BillSelf.com. The new site is produced by CBSCollegeSports.com, the same provider of Kansas’ official Web site, kuathletics.com. On the Web site, Self presents a look at KU basketball through video, feature stories and photo galleries.